I have to admit I’ve always felt a little uneasy about capitalism. Even before I began to get a handle on how the whole system actually works, there was just something about the profit-driven, bottom-line way of thinking that made my stomach turn.
Before I go any further, however, let me make it clear that I’m no expert in economics. So before you shoot down my arguments and laugh me to scorn, just remember that I’m not claiming to be an authority on this matter. It’s just that something about the whole thing seems off at the root.
I have no personal axe to grind in this debate, either. My own experience as a working class laborer-compared to many others I know, at least-hasn’t been all that bad. Since graduating college I’ve been privileged to spend most of my wage-earning hours working for generous small business owners. Christian men, even, with a real heart for people. Men who would pay for all their employees’ lunch three days out of five or buy a cake when it was one of their employee’s birthday and invite all the workers into the office to celebrate at the end of the day. I haven’t had to slave for a large corporation while CEO’s at the top got rich off my labor and I haven’t had to live with the fear that my job may be terminated at any given moment for no apparent reason. In many respects, I’ve had it good.
Despite my very blessed experience with good men operating their businesses with the overall welfare of their workers in mind, I have also observed the inevitable ills of the capitalist model and mindset more often than not defeating the best intentions of those generous employers who operate within its structure. On its very best day, the free market is still a long way from the kingdom of God. To say otherwise is to admit to wearing blinders, in my opinion. When it comes to God’s economy we capitalists have a very long way to go.
This is why I was delighted recently to pick up a little book at the local library entitled Coop by Upton Sinclair. Perhaps you are familiar with the man and the red flag of “socialism” is already going up in your mind, but if that is the case may I encourage you to loosen up a bit and allow yourself to at least consider other options than those which American society has taught us growing up. Personally, I’m no more a fan of socialism than I am of capitalism, as my hopes are not in any system but in the coming of God’s kingdom in the power of the Spirit. Though some people appear to believe that that kingdom is synonymous with capitalism and others just as strongly believe it is equal to socialism (while both are convinced that the other is of the devil), I myself prefer to park on neither side of that fence. My hopes of a better way are rooted in a personal revitalization of the heart that proceeds outward into a wholly transformed social order where there is neither slave nor free, neither rich nor poor. If this sounds like Marxism to you then all I can say is you don’t know what I’m talking about. For in the words of Will O’Brien,
“When we truly discover love, capitalism will not be possible, and Marxism will not be necessary.”
The kingdom of heaven may be an inward reality which does not “come with observation,” but at the same time I do strongly believe in a practical expression of this new creation which we say has come in Christ. The Lord’s own prayer is for the coming of His Father’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and while this anticipation may ever await its fullest realization at the final consummation of the ages, I am not about to believe that we’re supposed to just sit around twiddling our thumbs and waiting for future deliverance from the sky without standing now into the power of the age to come against the rulers of the darkness of this present evil age.
But perhaps this is getting a little heavy for a simple book review.
If you get the chance, though, I do encourage you to check out Sinclair’s book. “A novel about living together,” Coop is a piece of historical fiction detailing the plight of a small band of unemployed workers who came together out of necessity during the depression era to form a cooperative, the idea being to trade their services for goods (since hardly anyone had money with which to do anything) and that if they could only acquire the tools of production and work for themselves rather than rich businessmen who would only pay a minimum wage for their labor, they could work together to overcome first the effects and ultimately the root causes of the depression.
If that sounds like a mouthful, read the book for yourself. Sinclair is a good storyteller and master propogandist. By the time you’ve read a few chapters you’ll begin to understand his view of things. And to me at least, it makes a lot of sense.